Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

"IWPR Gave Me A Voice"

Reaching out to inspire women and help shape public opinion.
By IWPR
  • Istabraq Sabah Al-Zubaidi, one of IWPR's female champions. (Photo: IWPR)
    Istabraq Sabah Al-Zubaidi, one of IWPR's female champions. (Photo: IWPR)

Istabraq Sabah Al-Zubaidi, a 24 year-old from Baqubah, defied tradition when she decided to study pathology at university.

Having graduated with a masters’ degree, she now runs her own private practice in her hometown, the capital of Iraq’s conservative Diyala governorate.

“In Diyala, people want women to have a traditional life, study a little, get married and stay at home to raise children,” Al-Zubaidi said. “Or they want you to do only traditional work such as become a school teacher or a state employee, nothing more.”

Al-Zubaidi has always had a keen social awareness, and used to volunteer with the Raseef Al-Kutub Network, a book club for boys and girls. She wanted to use the networks that she developed through her work and activism to promote women’s rights in her home province.

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“In my daily life, I meet a lot of women and girls,” she said. “They share their stories and problems with me. So, I wanted to share their stories and their messages with a wider audience, but I didn’t know how to do it in a professional and effective way,” she said.

Training and support from IWPR not only helped her tell these stories more effectively but also how to work with a team to help shape public opinion, she continued.

“IWPR gave me an opportunity and the skills and mentoring to create a platform for my voice and the voices of other women to reach to a wider audience,” Al-Zubaidi said.

Her most recent story was about the launch party for a book entitled Female Power which brought together the life stories of 19 aspirational young women from Diyala.

As well as encouraging women to be resilient and aspire to a diverse range of political and social roles, Al-Zubaidi also writes about fathers and brothers who support female family members. These men serve as role models, she said.

“Whenever I publish a story about a brother who helped his sister or a father who supported his daughter,” she continued, “people’s comments and reactions of are always positive.”

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